Start-up Guzzle: paper specials online - TechCentral

Start-up Guzzle: paper specials online

Ric Meulemans

Cape Town-based start-up Guzzle hopes to become the go-to website for price comparisons in bricks-and-mortar stores. It thinks this will set it apart from other price aggregators that only compare deals from online retailers.

Guzzle co-founder and director Ric Meulemans says the site is only a month old but is already recording around 1 300 unique visitors a day. He wants to grow that to 200 000/month before he approaches the country’s big retailers.

For now, the site isn’t being monetized. However, Meulemans hopes to get retailers on board — either with them supplying information on specials before they go to print or integrating their e-commerce engines into the site.

Guzzle’s staff have to manually capture around 10 000 specials a week. “They expire on Monday and we have to do it again,” says Meulemans. “What we do to keep costs down is hire data capture staff from India, China and the Philippines via a service called oDesk. We physically send them the daily newspapers, weekend newspapers and the catalogues from Game, Makro and so on.”

Building the site itself was also outsourced to a team of developers in Russia, again to keep costs manageable. “If it doesn’t work out for any reason the loss is smaller and I haven’t employed people permanently that I then have to let go.”

Meulemans says in the next week Guzzle will start displaying catalogues to make it easier for buyers to discover which store has the best price on a particular product. “We can’t just capture the catalogues and nothing else because then users wouldn’t be able to compare products,” says Meulemans. “We had to dissect the catalogue, and that’s a mammoth task.”

The idea for Guzzle came from going through weekend newspapers while looking to buy a specific item and being unable to remember which store had had it at the best price, he explains. He investigated who was collecting and comparing stores’ offerings online but all he found were websites aggregating offers from other online stores. He says the result was “small stores with bad prices”.

Meulemans says major retailers “are still behind on the e-commerce front” and he hopes Guzzle can help facilitate greater support for online retail for some of the large players.

There are plans to create pricing charts on products to make it easier to see which retailers are “charging too much for items over time”. Similarly, Guzzle intends creating a virtual basket of goods, much like the consumer price index model, and tracking those items’ combined costs across retailers over time.

Guzzle also wants to offer mobile applications and provide users with customisable e-mail alerts for different sections of the website.

The site is being advertised through social media sites and through R25 000 in monthly spending on Google.

Meulemans says he hopes Guzzle eventually becomes a reference source for consumers looking to find the best prices before they go to physical stores and an e-commerce hub for those who don’t want to go to the store at all.

“We could eventually sell our data to retailers to allow them to compare their prices with their competitors’ prices in an easy way. Many of them are still going through catalogues themselves to do this.”  — Craig Wilson, TechCentral

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